A Mastermind: How Nas Changed the Game with God’s Son

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Nas. Strictly for editorial purpose. No copyright infringement intended
Nas. Strictly for editorial purpose. No copyright infringement intended
Reading Time: 3 minutes

There are artists whose albums require hindsight to thoroughly appreciate the work. Nas’ sixth album, God’s Son, released in 2002, was one such album. Audiences (myself included) praised it for the good music but missed the deeper display of the MC’s humanity at a crossroads.

Credit by Columbia Records and Nas. Strictly for Editorial Purposes. No Copyright Infringement Intended

To an average Hip Hop listener in 2002, Nas was in pure supreme mode. The year before, the album Stillmatic reigned. Fans cried, begged, and wined for the Queensbridge MC to deliver a replica of Illmatic—the debut offering that made him god status out the gate, only to live with the curse of comparing every other album to it afterward. The same comparison provided ammunition for then-rival Jay-Z’s diss record “Takeover” where he rhymes, “That’s a one hot album every ten-year average.” So, Nas’ diss response “Ether,” along with songs such as “One Mic”, “You’re Da Man”, “Got Ur Self A Gun” and other tracks from Stillmatic were a satisfactory high. Loyalists rejoiced at their Rap Messiah’s return to the street boom bap.

On the surface, Nas’ Hip Hop crown was secure, and with the announcement of God’s Son to follow, it was safe to assume the album would be a recorded victory lap of recent events. However, as fans would discover, the album revealed less of Nasty Nas the MC and more of Nasir Jones the man.

The expectation for God’s Son was to showcase Nas’ supremacy with street raps containing shots directed at rivals and critics alike. The album achieved platinum status a month after its release, charting at 12 on the Billboard 200, yet it was arguably Nas’ first personal release. Songs like “The Cross” were a verbal sound-off with mentions of frustration from carrying Hip Hop’s ‘chosen-one’ mantle and the emotional weight of being his family’s financial backbone. On “Last Real N***a Alive” Nas addresses the affair between the mother of his child and Jay-Z, how “Jay tried to sneak attack” while he (Nas) was a caregiver to his mother who was battling breast cancer. In the tribute the track “Dance,” you hear a vulnerable Nas choking up, yearning to have another special moment with his mother. She died less than a year before the God’s Son album was released.

As a lyricist, Nas has always been superior, but with God’s Son, the elite lyricism was used to represent his emotional state. It symbolized the turmoil he was experiencing in real-time. With the recent loss of his mother, Nas used his grief as an instrument of expression. The first single “Made You Look” was Nas’ fury. After a gunshot rings out, he dominates the microphone, “Ya’ll appointed me to bring rap justice!” Mainstream critics downplayed “I Can” as a cheap nursery rhyme, but purists understood Nas’ Slick-Rick approach for what it was, an attempt to empower young, elementary minds who were the same age that his daughter was at the time. “Heaven” was an introspective take on the complexity of choice: The pearly gates now, or an earthly hell to remain with a loved one. God’s Son is a benchmark record of Nas transitioning from a fierce Queens MC to a seasoned veteran artist.

As an album, and compared to Nas’ entire catalog, God’s Son is not such much a missed classic as it is an underrated masterpiece. The contemporary conversations of anxiety, depression, and other significant aspects of mental health were almost nonexistent in 2002, but with this album Nas reveals his character imperfections, flawed judgment, and evolving, unfolding perspective on life. God’s Son exemplifies how art has always provided a safe space for vulnerability when society offers no such option. For Nas, the artist, it’s a testimony of growth.

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